On a spiritual path, some of us are often confronted by difficult experiences which seek to awaken the warrior spirit within us. A peaceful warrior who stands up for a cause which affects more than oneself and acts from a place of awareness of the true self. According to the Random House Dictionary, the term “warrior” has two meanings. The first refers to “a man engaged or experienced in warfare.” The second refers to “a person who shows or has shown great vigor, courage, or aggressiveness, as in politics or athletics.” The term “warrior” is often associated with images of power, confidence, accomplishment, integrity, chivalry, honor and integrity.
Given the darker, survival driven side of human nature, it has and still is common practice for some individuals, tribes, cultures, corporations and nations to use raiding, theft, looting and plunder as a means of gaining wealth, power or even survival. It is also intrinsically true that those from whom they take do not give voluntarily. Thus, some cultures have a warrior class that act as raiders while others have a warrior class that acts as defenders or protectors. In fact, the warrior class often serves both roles, sort of like taking turns. It may, in some cases, even become a sport of sorts even developing an ad-hoc set of rules. Regardless, the strongest and boldest warriors are generally admired and enjoy an assortment of privileges within their own group.
In our culture we think of medieval knights as generally being honorable and noble (except for the black knight, of course). The truth is somewhat less romantic.
“We have ravaged women, burned houses, slain children, exacted ransom from everyone, eaten their cows, oxen, sheep, stolen their geese, pigs, capons, drunk their wines, violated churches……..For God’s sake, let us march on the pagans!” — Bertrand Du Guesclin- Legendary Fourteenth Century Knight
Regardless of the moral or political correctness of a warrior; all warriors have a few basic things in common:
They are disciplined, both internally and externally. Without discipline, they could not stay alive long enough to call themselves a warrior.
They develop mental focus. No one can develop essential skills of dealing with life, protecting one’s self or facing a foreboding opponent with an unfocused mind.
They develop an attitude of persistence. They have to face difficulty, pain, discomfort, discouragement, fear and the prospect of failure and utter doom without quitting. All struggle and conflict is settled in the mind before it reaches a physical resolution. If their resolve wavers, failure and defeat are certain.
They train. Imagine that you found yourself in a gunfight and to your surprise, the clips in your gear don’t fit your gun. Do you say, “Uh.. Excuse me! .. Uh.. Can we have a time out? I brought the wrong bullets!” Or, imagine that you are facing a warrior with steel in his eyes and his sword coming your way. Do you pause and think, “Uh.. let’s see … which hand do I hold the sword in … and … uh … which end of the shield is up?” If you don’t train, you don’t develop the skills that you need to survive … and you die!
All of these traits apply to the Spiritual warrior as well … and for the same reason.There is a difference between a warrior and a soldier. A soldier is trained to follow orders, to respect authority, and to subjugate their individual thinking process and will to the command hierarchy. A warrior, in contrast, is more autonomous and independent. A warrior engages in battle out of personal choice rather than because of obedience to orders. A warrior is capable of making moral judgments and acting accordingly. A warrior is flexible and adaptable; able to act independently as well as be a team player. A warrior takes responsibility for his or her choices and actions. A warrior is a person of compassion who understands pain and the consequences of action. A warrior understands the horror of war and does not seek it. A warrior understands that glory is only for fools who bask in their own illusions. A warrior, however, when engaged in a righteous cause, fights with such skill, passion, intensity, and brilliance that victory is assured.
Victory and defeat are a matter of Spirit more than of body. One is never defeated as long as his Spirit is not defeated or broken. When a warrior falls in battle without surrendering or giving up, his Spirit grows stronger. When a warrior survives the battle without surrendering or giving up, his Spirit grows stronger. Of course, most warriors prefer surviving.
War is a terrible wasteful folly in which there are no true winners. War brings out the best and worst in all of the players. The only ones who can be said to be winners are those who have strengthened their Spirits by overcoming adversity through will, sacrifice, and self awareness. Those who find courage in the face of extreme danger can be said to be winners. Those who face impossible situations and survive through the supreme application of will, keen focus, and Divine inspiration can be said to be winners.
Many are damaged by trauma. They lose parts of themselves by compromising their principles and morals or by facing situations too terrible to be acceptable or through fear. War is very messy and often morally ambiguous. The winners and the damaged often turn out to be the same people. A few rare individuals, through training, accomplishment and enlightenment develop the inner strength to face danger and horror without becoming damaged, cynical or crazy. These few have earned the right to be called warriors.
The term “Spiritual warrior” has been used in a variety of contexts and has been adopted by a variety of individuals who may not share a common understanding of the term. In general, a “Spiritual warrior” is someone who embraces the more noble personal attributes and strengths associated with warriors in general. In general, a “Spiritual warrior” is someone who masters him or herself, and overcomes personal desire, moral issues, and all weaknesses of character. In general, a “Spiritual warrior” is someone who embraces a journey of self discovery in order to benefit others as well as enlighten him or herself.
Some martial arts traditions maintain a system of ethics and honor and pursue a path of self mastery. Others emphasize combat, competition and fighting. Being a fighter does not make one a Spiritual warrior.
Some military organizations have a creed of honor and service as their core guiding principles. In the fog of actual warfare these may become lost, ignored or forgotten. Being a soldier does not make one a Spiritual warrior.
Being a Spiritual warrior has nothing to do with physical battle, making war, fighting or being mean and tough. The battle of the Spiritual warrior is the mastery of one’s self.
Being a “Spiritual warrior” means a life commitment. It means the embrace of discipline, study and long intense training sometimes at the sacrifice of comfort and convenience. Being a Spiritual warrior also means understanding your principles and not compromising them. It is easier said than done.
The first and most vital tool of the spiritual warrior is awareness. It is easy to we think we are aware, but pure awareness has no thinking involved. It has no thinking because it has no interpretation. Awareness is to perceive with clarity the truth of what is happening without interpretation or opinion. In a moment of awareness the dialogue in the mind stops. We are “seeing” from a point or view separate from the reasoning part of our mind. This could be described as an epiphany. Practiced seer’s live in this awareness in every moment.
Awareness is essential because it is the state of consciousness that allows us to discern between the facts and the Truth, and between the story and the lies in our mind. The realm of our mind is filled with false perceptions and false beliefs. While the mind can be very clever with stories and lies, it is the consciousness of awareness that is the discerning intelligence. We may use very intelligent reasoning to make a decision that is not good for ourselves. Only to look at it in hindsight and realize that we discounted indicators that told us otherwise. This can be done in something as simple as a stock investment. The mind is clever, but it is also full of assumptions and limited paradigms of perception. Conscious awareness allows us to see clearly instead of be blinded by these false belief paradigms.
Self awareness is the clarity to know who and what you are, and not get caught up in self important images of ourselves. These self important images in our mind distort our sense of who we are. False images can lead us to low self esteem and self confidence, or they can take us into being self centered. If you have an idea of who you are, then consider that you are not that idea in your mind. You are the one creating the idea, and observing it. Self awareness that you are not any of those images in your mind is essential to becoming free of self importance.
Courage of the Spiritual Warrior
The courage that makes for a good soldier also makes for a good Spiritual Warrior, but the intent becomes completely different. A soldier has courage to face a challenge that may bring physical harm. The Spiritual warrior has the courage to question challenge his or her own beliefs. By challenging our own beliefs we can dissolve the lies that cause our suffering. To challenge our own beliefs requires courage because it means the end of our illusion of safety. When other people challenge our own beliefs we are usually quick to defend. We defend them even if they cause us to suffer. As a warrior we learn not to defend what we believe, and then to challenge those very beliefs ourselves. In this way we are able to sort out the truth from illusions.
Discipline of the Spiritual Warrior
A soldier has discipline to follow orders and continues on when faced with challenges. The Spiritual Warrior’s discipline to continue on with their path when faced with challenges from their mind. It is easier to follow orders as a soldier, because we are threatened with consequences and rewarded to motivate us. This is in line with our years of conditioning. A warrior must have the discipline to practice deal with their own mind without someone else providing the motivation with carrots or sticks. A warrior must exercise their own will at the command of their heart, not an outside authority figure. This often means going against the fearful opinions in our mind that tempt us with illusions of punishment and rewards. We must also have the discipline to follow our own heart even when tempted by another person’s opinion. This way of living requires disciplined practice.
A soldier has a commitment to love his/her country. The Spiritual warrior must have the commitment to love him/her self. The warrior then extends that love to humanity. The commitment is required because in our journey we will certainly fumble and fall many times. It is in having a strong commitment that we get back up again. It is common to fall to judgment. It can be easy to love some people, particularly the people that like us or treat us well. However, it requires a tremendous commitment to love in the face of those that reject us. This commitment will cause us to challenge our beliefs about our judgments and not being compassionate. We must be committed to love beyond our own self-serving interests of what it will bring us. This is how we will become happy beyond our current paradigm of beliefs. In time we become committed to love for the sheer enjoyment of expressing love. This becomes our commitment. We nourish ourselves with the love we express. A warrior acts in this committed way, even when challenged.
“Only as a [spiritual] warrior can one withstand the path of knowledge. A warrior cannot complain or regret anything. His life is an endless challenge and challenges cannot possibly be good or bad. Challenges are simply challenges. The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge, while an ordinary man takes everything as a blessing or a curse.” – Don Juan